As pain pill or pill mill cases become much more prevalent in Florida, one issue that we have looked at quite often is a person’s privacy rights in his/her pharmacy and medical records. In Florida, a person has clear privacy rights in his/her medical records. It requires a court order for the police or another party to see a person’s medical records, and there must be a legitimate legal basis to do so. However, pharmacy records are much different. There is much less protection for pharmacy records relating to prescription narcotics. In some cases, a police officer can go to a pharmacy and request a person’s prescription records without a search warrant or court order and without the patient ever being notified of the police search. The police officer merely has to tell the pharmacy that he/she is working on a criminal case, and the pharmacy records of controlled substance prescriptions become an open book.
In many cases, this issue comes up in relation to doctor shopping charges- where a person is suspected of going to different doctors in a short time period to get similar pain pill prescriptions without informing the doctors that he/she went to the other doctor for the same purpose. The police may then go to the pharmacies where the person is filling the prescriptions for evidence of the doctor shopping crime.
Florida law allows the police to just walk into the pharmacy and obtain records of prescriptions for controlled substances when the police officer says he/she is working on a criminal case, or in other words, just about any time a police officer feels it is remotely relevant to a criminal investigation. The very limited privacy protection prevents the police officer from obtaining pharmacy records in this way of prescriptions for drugs that are not controlled substances.
Sometimes, the police will try to use this law to delve further into a person’s medical data. Once they easily obtain the prescription information, the police may determine the names of the prescribing doctors and then go talk to them about the defendant and the allegedly illegal prescriptions. This is a violation of the law. While Florida law does allow the police to easily access a person’s controlled substance pharmacy records, it does not allow the police to take the next step and get any medical records or talk to any medical personnel about the defendant, unless the police officer gets a court order first.